Review: Breathing Corpses (Coal Mine Theatre)

Performers Erin Humphry and Johnathan Sousa in Breathing Corpses

Breathing Corpses, on stage at Toronto’s Coal Mine Theatre, lacks coherence

I expected to love Coal Mine Theatre’s new production, Breathing Corpses. The production company came highly recommended. Unfortunately, although the cast was talented, the play was plagued by uneven pacing and a sense of disconnect from reality. This play tried so hard to be clever that it forgot to stay coherent, and many characters made decisions and expressed emotions that did not feel real or grounded in any way.

As its title suggests, Breathing Corpses is a drama built around death. The characters are clustered into three groups whose stories never intersect onstage. I respect playwright Laura Wade’s decision to let the audience do the work of figuring out the relationship between the groups of characters. However, because the scenes were never synthesized onstage, this play felt to me like it lacked cohesion.

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Review: King Lear (Mortar & Pestle Productions)

Poster for King LearMortar and Pestle’s King Lear stays on script, but could be gutsier

Where, exactly, does a tragedy start? Is it the moment a story is conceived? Or is it the moments when everything can be easily undone by simple communication?

Mortar and Pestle Production’s King Lear playing at the Gerrard Arts Space is a show that presents the inevitable tragedy with characters who seem to expect the events.

When everyone feels ahead of the plot, however, the story becomes less a tragedy and more a question of purpose.

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Review: Toronto, Mississippi (Panfish Productions)


Unconventional family tale graces Toronto stages… along with Elvis references

Joan MacLeod’s Toronto, Mississippi, presented by Panfish Productions at The Box Theatre, is a show about an unconventional family that revolves around Jhana (Kayla Whelan), an 18-year-old woman whose developmental delay has stuck her in the uneasy space between independent adult desire and a dependent perpetual childhood. It’s a complex and intriguing show that—like its lead character—is both lovable and frustrating, and could use a little more experience.

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Review: Dido and Aeneas (Opera Atelier)


Dido and Aeneas wows Toronto stage vocally, but leaves a bit to be desired story-wise

I was somewhat surprised by Opera Atelier’s decision to mount Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas as their fall 2016 production. From start to finish, this opera is about an hour long, and most opera goers are looking for more than an hour worth of bang for their buck.

Opera Atelier mounts historically informed productions of opera from the 17th and 18th centuries. Their productions are always exceptionally well-researched, and Dido and Aeneas was the very first opera the company ever mounted, in 1985. Artistic Director Marshall Pynkoski and Choreographer Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg took advantage of their extensive knowledge of this work to craft a full evening’s entertainment. Continue reading Review: Dido and Aeneas (Opera Atelier)

Playlistings in Toronto for the week of October 24th

Shows That Caught Our Eye in Toronto the Week of October 24th.

Are you a fan of Shakespeare? There are a variety of Shakespeare-written plays on Toronto stages this week. As befits the season, there’s also a huge selection of Halloween-themed events happening this week. Our assistant editor Jess is here to choose a few shows that caught her eye in red text. Check them out below the cut:

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Kid +1 Review: Spirit Horse (Young People’s Theatre)


Indigenous-focused Spirit Horse is essential and educational, and on Toronto stages now

Young People’s Theatre has opened their mainstage season with Spirit Horse, a Native American adaptation by Drew Hayden Taylor of the Irish play Tir Na N’og by Greg Banks, who also directed this production. Taylor is a First Nations writer I love for his humour and poignancy, and this offering is no exception.

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Review: Mouthpiece (Nightwood Theatre + Quote Unquote Theatre) & Quiver (Nightwood Theatre)

Picture of performer Anna Chatterton

Mouthpiece / Quiver is an extraordinary double-bill, on stage at Toronto Buddies in Bad Times Theatre

Right now, an extraordinary double bill is playing at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre: Mouthpiece, produced by Quote Unquote Theatre and presented by Nightwood Theatre, and Quiver, produced by Nightwood Theatre. Through innovative staging and raw storytelling power, these two shows offer a creative and profoundly moving exploration of the female voice.

These are two of the most urgent and unforgettable plays that I have ever seen. The storytelling techniques and structures in these plays are as bold as the stories themselves; together, Mouthpiece and Quiver offer an extremely cutting-edge night at the theatre.

Continue reading Review: Mouthpiece (Nightwood Theatre + Quote Unquote Theatre) & Quiver (Nightwood Theatre)

Review: Even this old town was a Forest (Birdtown & Swanville)

william_ellis_-_photo_by_natalie_novakBirdtown & Swanville presents an episodic play of mystery, myth, misery, and survival in Toronto

Birdtown & Swanville’s Even This Old Town Was A Forest, playing at The Theatre Centre, is a performance-driven tale of mystery, myth, misery, and survival. It’s funny though so don’t let those last four words turn you off.

Even This Old Town Was A Forest gives us the story of sisters Mary and Becky as they travel from England to 18th century Toronto – with Mary’s fiancé William, and Becky’s husband Jonathan – to build a new life. Once there, the group meets Abequa, a First Nations girl who has an odd ailment and has literally lost her father. The group must face the elements if they hope to survive, but they are also taunted by a monster who is forever in their midst. Continue reading Review: Even this old town was a Forest (Birdtown & Swanville)

Review: Ariodonte (Canadian Opera Company)

0582 – A scene from the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Ariodante, 2016. Conductor Johannes Debus, director Richard Jones, associate director Benjamin Davis, set and costume designer ULTZ, and lighting designer Mimi Jordan Sherin, photo: Michael Cooper
Canadian Opera Company presents a dramatic, compelling take on Ariodonte in Toronto

In the Canadian Opera Company’s premiere production of Ariodonte, by G.F. Handel, a holy-roller revival comes to town. The revival comes in the form of the sadistic, misogynistic, creeper preacher Polinesso. During the elegant, highly evocative overture, Polinesso pontificates to a rapt audience of villagers on the perils of seductive women of loose virtue. It soon becomes apparent that the true peril is him. Continue reading Review: Ariodonte (Canadian Opera Company)